Opera Canada Publications, 22-DEC-01
Covello, Richard
Otello, Chicago, 22 September 2001
Ben Heppner's first staged performance as Verdi's Otello, seen Lyric Opera of Chicago's opening production, displayed his characteristic and unfailing beauty of tone upon his first entrance and through virtually all of the Love Duet. But difficulties became apparent in Act II, necessitating an announcement that he was indisposed but would continue. This he did, dodging a couple of high notes in the Act III monologue but rallying in the last act to deliver a moving death scene. However, it was obvious that this was a temporary indisposition. Anyone who has heard him reel off Tristans with seeming ease, enact a most vivid Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg or deliver stunning renditions of "O Paradis" and Walther's Prize Song, as he did at a Lyric Opera concert just prior to opening night, need not have any fears. The Otello was likely an off night for him in a new role.

Since Lucio Gallo was a competent but routine ago, it was Renee Fleming who alone shone among the principals. Her Desdemona was flawless, sung with what must be the most gorgeous voice in opera today. The ascending German tenor Jonas Kaufmann was a stunning Cassio, and Sir Andrew Davis had the orchestra playing beautifully. But Sir Peter Hall's idea of staging Shakespeare in 19th-century dress is by now a thoroughly hackneyed device. Otherwise, his innovations included mounting the opera in a unit set that recalled the Globe Theatre and directing the principals to roll around the floor. Desdemona opted to go to sleep on the floor instead of her nearby bed. At other times, she wrapped herself in a blanket as though suffering from pneumonia instead of marital problems.

  www.jkaufmann.info back top